NBA AM: Evaluating the Hot and Cold Starts

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We’re almost two weeks into the NBA season and there are more than a few blistering starts worth noting. On the other end of the spectrum, there are numerous players who are ice cold to begin the 2016-17 campaign.

With such a small sample size, there are bound to be members of this list that will flip flop positioning as the season roars on. However, let’s take a look at how the following 16 players have started the campaign. In all fairness to the NBA’s steep learning curve, rookies were not included during the compilation of this list.

Jeff Teague, Guard, Indiana Pacers
2016-17 Stats:
11.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 6.8 assists, 32% FG, 22% 3PT

The Pacers revamped their offense during the offseason and the acquisition of Teague was supposed to be a driving force of making it all connect on the floor. To start the season, Teague – in a contract year – has struggled to find a consistent rhythm in his perimeter game. The veteran has posted a decent assist line, but the Pacers will need more consistency from their floor general.

James Ennis, Guard-Forward, Memphis Grizzlies
2016-17 Stats:
11.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 49% FG, 42% 3PT

The play of Ennis has been a positive for the Grizzlies as they wait for veteran wings Tony Allen and Chandler Parsons to be fully healthy. Ennis is flirting with a double-double while connecting on over 40 percent of his attempts from three-point range. Not bad at all for a role player.

Nick Young, Guard, Los Angeles Lakers
2016-17 Stats:
12.3 points, 2.3 rebounds, one assist, 40% FG, 32% 3PT

Young was an afterthought on last year’s Lakers team, but new head coach Luke Walton has entrusted the veteran guard with 25 minutes per night in the rotation. So far the results have been largely positive, as the youth movement in Los Angeles has started to gain momentum early on.

Klay Thompson, Guard, Golden State Warriors
2016-17 Stats:
15.8 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.7 assists, 38% FG, 20% 3PT

Thompson is seemingly another example of the sacrifices that must be made when adding elite-level talent to the roster. The presence of former league MVP Kevin Durant has forced the Warriors to play a bit differently to start the campaign and Thompson’s numbers have decreased during the early going.

Avery Bradley, Guard, Boston Celtics
2016-17 Stats:
20.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, four assists, 51% FG, 48% 3PT

Bradley has always been known as a strong perimeter defender, but the veteran guard has started the season on a 20-plus point-per-game tear. Bradley’s offensive emergence has helped ease the sting of four-time All-Star Al Horford’s absence from the lineup for a few games early on.

Myles Turner, Center, Indiana Pacers
2016-17 Stats:
17.2 points, 7.2 rebounds, 1.2 assists, 55% FG

The signs of a possible Turner sophomoric breakout were clearly visible during his showing in last season’s playoffs. To start the season, the second-year big man is second on the Pacers in scoring and currently leads the team in rebounding.

Jahlil Okafor, Center, Philadelphia 76ers
2016-17 Stats:
10.5 points, 4.3 rebounds, one block, 47% FG

The excitement surrounding center Joel Embiid has deflected the heat from Okafor’s extremely slow start to the season. Okafor led the Sixers in scoring last season (17.5), but he and center Nerlens Noel have been mentioned in the trade rumor mill in recent months.

George Hill, Guard, Utah Jazz
2016-17 Stats:
20 points, three rebounds, 4.3 assists, 52% FG, 44% 3PT

Entering the season with forward Gordon Hayward sidelined and forward Derrick Favors on a minute restriction, the Utah Jazz desperately needed someone to pick up the scoring slack. Hill, acquired by the team this past summer in a draft-day deal, did just that. Hill has established himself as a consistent double-figure scorer throughout his career, but not many expected this type of barrage from the veteran.

Willie Cauley-Stein, Center, Sacramento Kings
2016-17 Stats:
3.8 points, 1.2 rebounds, 48% FG

It may be a bit unfair to place Cauley-Stein on this list playing behind an All-Star in DeMarcus Cousins, but there was hope that the second-year player would take a significant leap with defensive-minded head coach Dave Joerger now calling the shots in Sac-Town. But it hasn’t come to fruition and Cauley-Stein is playing roughly six minutes less per contest compared to last year.

DeMar DeRozan, Guard, Toronto Raptors
2016-17 Stats:
35.8 points, five rebounds, 2.6 assists, 55% FG, 13% 3PT

DeRozan’s start to the season has been a thing of beauty to watch develop, as the old timers say. DeRozan currently sports an incredibly high usage rate (38.3) for a Raptors team looking to get back to the Eastern Conference Finals. For more on DeRozan’s start, check out this recent breakdown of his play.

Harrison Barnes, Forward, Dallas Mavericks
2016-17 Stats:
18.2 points, 6.2 rebounds, 1.2 3PM, 49% FG

Barnes was a member of Team USA’s Gold Medal triumph this past summer, but wasn’t a regular member of the rotation. The forward also struggled through a rough preseason shooting less than 30 percent from the field. However, with the games now counting, the wing is on pace for a career-year.

Sean Kilpatrick, Guard, Brooklyn Nets
2016-17 Stats:
17.2 points, 4.2 rebounds, two assists, 45% FG, 41% 3PT

It is shaping up to be a rebuilding year in Brooklyn, but the Nets may have found a member of their future framework in Kilpatrick. The guard currently ranks second on the team in scoring behind former All-Star center Brook Lopez.

Kemba Walker, Guard, Charlotte Hornets
2016-17 Stats:
24.4 points, three rebounds, 4.6 assists, 47% FG, 42% 3PT

There were many around the league who felt Walker was snubbed from the Eastern Conference’s All-Star team last season. Now it appears the veteran guard has started the season on a rampage, seeking to prove his worth to the voters (fans and coaches).

Hassan Whiteside, Center, Miami HEAT
2016-17 Stats:
20 points, 14.2 rebounds, 2.6 blocks, 59% FG

Whiteside secured a near-$100 million deal in free agency this past summer, so it’s totally logical many people are taking a strong look at the center’s game to see if there is any drop-off. To date, if there have been changes it’s mostly positive, as the center is continuing to develop into a terror on the block.

J.J. Barea, Guard, Dallas Mavericks
2016-17 Stats:
16.4 points, three rebounds, 5.2 assists, 38% FG, 46% 3PT

No matter the situation, Barea quietly goes about his business like a true professional and contributes to the nightly rotation. To start the season, Barea is second on the Mavericks in scoring as the team adjusts to Dirk Nowitzki’s current injury woes.